When you are overseas for the Holidays it could leave you feeling a little blue, knowing that you are not going to be apart of the traditions that you have been apart of for so many years. Not to mention the feelings you encounter becuase you are away from your family. One thing that Trey and I discovered while being away is how thankful and fortunate we are to have such supportive, loving, and genuine families to return home to once our adventures are over.
Our Expat family has really helped us through this Holiday season with a good ol' fashioned Thanksgiving celebration. Tradition is what you make it, and when you are surround by people you care for, and come together with those that make you happy you are bound for success! Trey and I feel so blessed to have met such wonderful people and had the opportunity to share this day with new friends!
It all began one sunny afternoon in July when we were discussing with our friend the ever so popular topic of food. We were discussing all of our favorites when someone mention sweet potato cassarole. Our Aussie friend Kiara, look at us very curiously and said, "What is sweet potato cassorole?" Much to the Americans dismay, we all began talking over eachother eagerly trying to explain this delectable dish of sweet potatoes mashed with sweet crispy marshmellow toping. Kiara with big eyes and a grin exlaimed, "You had me at sweet potatoes and marshmellows!" We also explained it was something that was typically served on Thanksgiving. "Awe Thanksgiving my favorite Holiday of the season!" Becky said, with a longing in her voice. Kathryn, a friend of ours from the UK, replied, "Well Kiara and I had never been to a Thanksgiving before, so why dont we have a proper Thanksgiving here in Spain this year." Kathryn, a fellow foodie enthusist, although you wouldn't be able to tell from the looks of her, likes food just as much as Trey and I and is always ready to try new foods. All of the Americans loved this idea and began talking about what favorite recipes and family traditions they wanted to share, leaving the non Americans smiling and nodding in approval of what they were going to sample on this amazing American Holiday! Thus began the Expat Framily Thanksgiving!
Since the conversation started in July we had plenty of time to prepare. We weren't quite sure how or where we were going to host this grand event, but we knew it would work out. After Kathryn and Becky moved into there spacious flat in September it was settle it would be at their place. Becky made a group chat inviting all of us to the event at the end of October. Which I can totally respect her waiting not to prematurely prepare for this event. I mean it would be like putting your Christmas Tree up before Thanksgiving (oops we might have done that this year, but that is another blog with a great explaination).
Trey and I finally decided and commited to bringing the Turkey, Granddaddy's famous Mac and Cheese, Gibblet Gravy, Vegitarian Gravy, and Chelsea's pumpkin spiced bread. Little did we know the adventure we would encounter in finding the perfect bird for our Spanish Thanksgiving Feast.
When we agreed to preparing the turkey Trey and I thought it would be super easy right...wrong! Neither one of us had ever done a turkey before let alone a turkey from Spain. So I set out a week before to ensure we could have a fresh bird. I went to the local butcher and in my best Spanish possible asked for a turkey large enough to feed 4 people (mind you we had two vegitarians at our feast so we did not need a giant turkey). They told me it would be no problem, and to come pick it up the Wednesday before our feast. We also had to have our feast on a Sat. becuase of course it was not a Holiday for the Spanish so many of us still had to work. I recieved a call later that evening confirming I wanted a Pavito for pick up on Wed. and the butcher told me the price per kilo. "Well that was easy," I said out loud and so I thought.
I knew I had to work that Wed. afternoon, so I asked Trey if he could pick up the turkey. Of course he was happy to help, but for some reason when he walked in to tell the butcher he was there to pick up the turkey under my name, the butcher took one look at Trey and said, "I think you need a bigger turkey come back on Friday and I will have your turkey. " I don't know if he thought Trey needed to put on some extra weight or he took one look at Trey and thought those Americans mean business I will show them what a REAL turkey is, becuase we ended up with 7.7 kilo tukey aka 18 lb turkey! Trey said okay, and called me right away to tell me about his "upgrade". I laughed and said "Well we will have plenty of left overs then!"
When I went to pick up the turkey Firday afternoon the butcher handed me, with two arms, Thomas our Turkey, and said, "Tu bebe!" He wasn't kidding either Thomas was a chunker! I took him home and began to wonder how I was going to fit him the the refridgerator. I put him in the pan I had bought for the occasion and realized the pan was too small. I took out two shelves in our refridgerator and put Thomas in a his resting place for the evening. Trey and I both went back to Corte Ingles to exchange the pan for larger one. When we returned to our humble abode Trey said, "Wow if we had a hard time with fitting Thomas in the fridge will he fit in the oven?"
It was the moment of truth....we put Thomas in the pan and placed the pan in the oven! It fit and Trey and I rested easy that night! Yahoo, the hard part was over now, and all we just had to do was wake up, take out the bag of organs, spice him up, and cook him right? Well thats what we thought... and boy were we wrong.
So there Trey and I were, in our PJs, staring at Thomas. You see in the states the neck and organs are already removed for you and placed insidea plastic bag that is then placed inside turkey for a clean, easy way to begin the preparation of your turkey. While here in Spain all of the insides, neck, and occaisional difficult feathers are still attached.
After youtubing how to remove a turkey neck both of us elbows deep in a turkey and taking turns whestling out the neck, desifering betweens where all of the organs were, and using kitchen scissors to remove the remaining feathers he was ready to prep. We used a combination of spices and recipes and had several whatsapp messages back and forth with my mom to ensure we would have the perfect turkey! As the incredible aroma began take over our little apartment, we knew we had done something right! Above is a picutre of our final product! MEET Thomas the Turkey!
We had just finished Thomas in time to get the shin dig, and we began to pack up our contributions. We called a cab because we figured with an 18 lb turkey and a 15 lb dog, it would be easier than taking the metro. Yes, Cash even joined us for the Expat Framily Thanksgiving. After all he is an expat too! In fact the hostest even suggested we bring him, so we couldn't leave the Cashman out of all the fun! When we arrived everyone was unpacking there sides and the hostest and Michelle had put together some delicious appitizers. The Holiday cocktails were a perfect touch and just what everyone needed after cooking all day. We all finished up our cooking and heating up one by one. I never realized how much I took space for granted until I moved to Spain. Becky and Kathryn even had a much larger kitchen than a traditional Spainsh kitchen , but even with a smaller space we all managed to make a beautful spread.
One thing I cannot forget to mention is the amazing prepartion and recipes of all the side dishes. Thanksgiving just isn't Thanksgiving with out all the sides and sides we had!!! We had green bean cassarole, mac and cheese, stuffing, sweet potato cassarole, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh cranberries and bread. It was a taste of America in Spain that night and we enjoyed every bite of it! Oh and I was saving the best part for last... the desserts! Many of us could not stomach because they had gone back for seconds (cough cough TREY) but we had apple crumb, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin spiced bread to choose from.
As we all sat down at the beatifully set table, set by our hostest with the mostest Becky, to begin our feast we all went around the table and said what we were thankful for. It was humbling, and moving to hear what our new found Expat family had to say. One common theme was this experience and opportunity to live abroad.
After that ever so moving grateful circle the table went quite other than OHHHHs and Awwees and your occasional outbursts of "omgoodness this is so good" from literally everyone at the table.
We all ate so much food that I think we all were in a food como for the remaining of the evening. Cash was the only one who wanted to be photographed in this state of utterfullness. As you can see he is just miserable! We finished off the evening discussing politics very delicately, I think this made many of us American feel right at home. Followed by a very lively game of pictionary and drinking wine until nearly 1am. It may not have been our traditional Thanksgiving, but it sure was one of the most memorable Thanksgivings I have ever had. As I laid my head on the pillow that night to go to sleep, I told Trey how turly grateful I was that we decided to live abroad and experience this life together.
It was a Wednesday and a Spanish Holiday! The Spanish have alot of Holidays and I can assure you we are very thankful them. The Tree Amigo didn't have to work, so we thought what a better way to spend a day off than to travel and explore a near by city. We headed out, onto the open road once more around 1pm, and within 45 minutes we had reached our destination, El Escorial! What a charming little town we all commented as we drove in to the historical and clean kept center. We found parking on the side of the road with no problem, and it almost felt as if we were the only people in the enture town. Coming from a city as large as Madrid, its a nice break to get out of the main stream and hub of it all every now and again.
Well first thing is first, find food! One thing the Three Amigos knows best is how to eat. Very uncharacteristicly of us, we were rather indecisive that afternoon on where to eat. It must have been the hangry in all of us. We went to several different resturants looking over the menu and none of them seemed right. Finally, we made it to the square with beautiful views. We all agreed at first that a nice lunch outside in the plaza would be nice. Until we sat at a table for maybe 10 minutes, when the wind picked up and we all began to put our scarfs up around our faces. We then reconsidered our decision to dine outside, and made a run for an inside table.
It was packed inside this restuarant and to think we were at first wondering where everyone in this town was. Well we found them, in that restuarant! Surprisingly enough and much to our disbelief, we were sat right away. This is great becuase at this point we were all nearly straving. The smells of the mouthwatering food wisked by our table. Without a second look at the menu we called the waiter over to our table, pointed to what had just been brought out to the table beside us and asked for three please. The waiter smiled and must have seen the look of hunger in our eyes becuase our food was brought out straight away. It was delcious and we were not dissappointed. The pork belly was cooked to perfection and the butter beans and sauce complimented this dish so nicely. Needless, to say we had full bellies and were feeling warm again on this very cold afternoon.
It was time to walk off the amazing meal we had just enjoyed. We decided to go take a look at the El Escorial Monastery. I had seen a few pictures of the Monastery but had no idea it would this extravagant. We went into the incredible Cathadral. I had been in many Cathadrals before, but there was something about this one that moved me. Perhaphs, it was all the many people from all over the world visiting this beautiful historical building, or maybe it was the fact that I had the chance to thank god for this experience.
There was a place where you could light a candle. There was a sign in many different languages welcoming all people, from all backgrounds, and religious believes to light a candle. The simplicity of it was beautiful and the best part about it was all the candles were almost all lit. We then continued through the living courters and some other rooms with extraviagant religious paintings, all along the way telling biblical stories through art. The colors were bold, and bright. It was difficult not to smile amungst such amazing pieces of pure beauty.
I think Trey and I's favorite part of this tour was the hall of battles. It had Spain's history of battles hand painted in a giant room all along the walls. It was truly unbelievable all of the detailing in this room. Not to mention the time it took these artist to create this. As we left the hall of battles Kathryn said to us, " I mean I heard this place was beautful and a great place to tour but this is well beyond my expectations." Trey and I couldn't agree more!
We had completed the tour and now it was time for something sweet. Kathryn had suggested we go for some chocolate and churros. What a fantstic idea but where? I googled places that served chocolate and churros and it lead us to a cafe off of a hotel. They did not have chocolate and churros, and took forever to even speak to anyone, so we decided to head back to Madrid. Just as we had given up a hope, as we were heading back to the car we discovered a little cafe serving chocolate and churros. It was a sign!!! We stopped in to warm up and ohhh did we ever warm up! Words cannot describe how good chocolate and churros taste nor do pictures even do this delectable dessert justice. I guess you will just have to come to Spain and try them for yourself. We walked backed to our car and headed home to get ready for our next work the following day. Yet another successful day for the Three Amigos!
Spanish love their Wine. We expats are glad to have something in common with them. We have met some amazing friends along the way so far here in Madrid and some of our friends wanted to get together and do something special. In the neighborhood of Pacifico is Bodega J Cuesta owned and operated by Sergio. Michele and her husband Sisco have been patrons of the local establishment and found that not only does he have great wines but he provides wine tastings as well. Assemble all thirsty expats!
We look forward to events like this and had it marked on our calendar for weeks. The big day came and we were ready. The rain could not stop us! Good fellowship and wine equals a great night! As we entered to bodega you can tell the place has character. The walls are lined with wine, there are wines behind the counter, wine in the isles. There is also some history in the place. Articles and clippings of boxers, Futbol stars, and Matadors of old around in frames and taped on the shelves. The bodega is Spanish, traditional, and steeped with tradition.
After everyone gathered Sergio took us downstairs to the basement where he had a big table and, you guessed it, more wine! This wine was old and had lots of dust on it. We asked how much and he said they were not for sale. That was his collection that he would not part with.
Sergio has been tasting wine since he was a child. He had a gift for tasting the flavors of wine for a long time. After a stint selling luxury yachts he was able to afford to purchase the bodega from his friend and boss and come to own the local gem. He has a lot of passion for his work and loves talking about wine. We enjoyed his eloquent discussions of the wines and appreciated Michele's translations.
The most interesting thing I learned was something that had puzzled me since arriving in Spain. The wine quality is as good if not better than in the United States but yet the cost was a fraction. You can get an excellent bottle of wine in Spain for 6 Euro and a decent bottle for 2 Euro. So why to you have to pay so much back home? I thought it was because the Spanish government gave subsidies but the wine is so cheap because there are no taxes. No it is not subsidies but taxes in the United States that make the wine so expensive. So wine is not as expensive to produce as I once thought. The cheap and wonderful wine is a perk of living in Spain. They have some of the highest life expectancy in the world and the cheapest wine prices. Hmm??
We brought our cheese board and Michele and Sisco brought more cheese, Ann brought anchovies pizza and tortilla, and we had olives. According to Sergio it was quite a spread. But we didn't come there for the food. No, we came to taste some wine and that is exactly what we did!
Sergio, our Somalia, had five bottles planned for us on our tasting. (See picture for local Spanish wines). He explained in great detail the history, character, tastes, and composition of each wine in Spanish. As we tasted and participated our cheeks got rosier and our opinions longer winded. By the end of the last wine he said he could get us another bottle out if we wanted. The place went silent and then Trey said "Abrir", To Open in Spanish, and Sergio went up for one more bottle of wine.
We said our goodbyes, Purchased our wines we liked, and let Sergio close up and go back to his family. Sergio runs a local bodega with a neighborhood feel. When asked what is the best thing about Sergio's job he enjoys he says, "it is pairing a wine for a customer and them coming back and telling him how good it was."
Thanks Sergio for connecting people with great wine!